Meet our Staff
- Young Children’s Community – Toddlers (Age 1.5 to 3)
- Primary – Pre School & Kindergarten (Age 3 to 6)
- Lower Elementary – Grades 1 to 3 Age (6 to 9)
- Upper Elementary – Grades 4 to 6 (Age 9 to 12)
- Junior High – Grades 7 to 9 (Age 12 to 15)
Young Children’s Community
Kacey Peterson – Mulberry Guide
Kacey grew up in Santa Cruz and found her way to Santa Cruz Montessori in 2015. Kacey received her BA degree in Liberal studies from California State Monterey Bay in 2013 and completed her AMI Assistants to Infancy training from the Montessori Institute of Denver in 2018. She began teaching as an assistant in the Mulberry classroom in 2015 after spending many years assisting and co-teaching in public schools and preschool classroom settings. After completing her A to I training, she began her journey as the head guide in the Mulberry classroom in 2018. The Montessori toddler environment is truly a special place and she loves seeing each child explore and blossom. In her free time, Kacey enjoys painting and drawing, running, and exploring hiking trails with her dog.
Annie Morris – Monarch Guide
Annie has been with Santa Cruz Montessori since 1990 and established the Monarch class when our Primary program expanded at that time. After attending Cañada Community College, Annie continued her education at the Montessori Teacher Training Center of Northern California and received her Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) Primary (3 to 6) diploma in 1984. She was a guide at the training center before coming to SCM. Annie has continued her education through AMI refresher Courses and is also trained in Sequential English Education (SEE), Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing® (LiPS®), and teaching children with autism spectrum disorders. In addition, she serves as a mentor teacher for the AMI Teacher Training Center and regularly oversees observers and student teachers. Annie has a special interest and talent in preparing Montessori classroom environments and often advises other guides in creating beautiful, harmonious environments for children.
Heather Hays – Ohlone Guide
Heather has been with Santa Cruz Montessori since 1998. She was first a Primary assistant teacher and has been the guide for the Ohlone class since it first opened in 2005. Heather graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BA in psychology and received her American Montessori Society (AMS) Early Childhood credential from the Montessori Teacher Education Center San Francisco Bay Area in San Leandro, California. She has been involved in the Montessori community in many ways as both a parent and a staff member. Her daughter and son began as small children at SCM and attended through our Wavecrest program. Heather leads our Primary parent education classes, “What is Montessori Primary?” and “Montessori in the Home,” and enjoys introducing the Montessori philosophy to new parents. She continues her education through a variety of workshops and conferences and has served as a SCM board member.
Amy Nishikata – Willow Guide
Amy is the lead Guide for the Willow Classroom. She has worked with children as an educator since 1995. Prior to moving to California for a position at SCM, she was a lead guide at the Montessori School of Syracuse in New York for six years. She also spent 10 years living in Japan teaching English as a second language (ESL) and opened her own school to provide an after school language and enrichment program to children from preschool through sixth grade. She currently enjoys sharing her Japanese language skills with the Willow children. While an undergraduate she served as a conflict resolution mediator for at risk youth in Los Angeles. Her daughter Sachi is a SCM graduate. Amy has a B.A. in Japanese from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Montessori Teaching Credential. She is also a certified ESL instructor and is trained as a conflict resolution mediator.
Sarah Nofi – Redwood Guide
Sarah received her BA degree in literature from UCSC in 2002, and before discovering Montessori, worked in the public school system as a reading volunteer and student teacher in the Santa Cruz and New York City areas. After receiving her American Montessori Society (AMS) teaching credential from the Montessori Teacher Education Center San Francisco Bay Area in 2008, Sarah assisted in the Redwood class. She became the Redwood guide in 2011. Before deciding to teach as a career, Sarah worked in the state and national parks throughout California building and maintaining trails. She brings a love of nature, love of literature, and love of children to her work every day.
Molly DiPiero – Sequoia Guide
Molly was born and raised in Aptos, California and attended Montessori school as a child, including the elementary program at SCM. During high school and college, Molly worked in the summer and after school care programs at Santa Cruz Montessori. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a BA in American culture, Molly returned to SCM and worked as an assistant in the primary program. She received her Association Montessori Internationale Elementary diploma from Washington Montessori Institute in 2012 and completed her MEd from Loyola University in 2013. Molly is passionate about sharing her love of learning with children
Nina Noorzad – Adobe Guide
Nina received her BA in Liberal Studies from California State University, Fullerton in 2003 and in 2004 completed the Multiple Subject Teaching Credential Program at CSU Fullerton. Following graduation, Nina discovered Montessori and worked as an assistant in a Montessori school in Southern California. After working as an assistant for five years, Nina entered training and earned her Association Montessori Internationale Elementary diploma from Montessori Institute of San Diego. Before joining Santa Cruz Montessori, Nina was the head teacher of a lower elementary Montessori classroom in Huntington Beach, California. Nina has traveled to many places around the world and loves to incorporate cultural diversity into her classroom.
Susanne McGraw – Evergreen Guide
Susanne first started teaching Montessori as a Primary guide in 1999 after completing her AMI Primary training in Vancouver, Canada. After many years of teaching at the Primary level and directing a Montessori school, she then completed the AMI Elementary Training in Milwaukee in 2013. Susanne joined Santa Cruz Montessori School in 2014 as an Elementary guide in the Evergreen class. Susanne is passionate about Education, and studied it through Interdisciplinary lenses during her undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia, and in the Masters of Education program at the Loyola University of Maryland.
Shawn Kreider – Cypress Guide
Shawn has always had a passion for helping children and families learn and grow. He grew up in Michigan and received a Bachelor‛s degree in psychology from Michigan State University where he worked as a counselor at a children‛s psychiatric hospital, and Social worker, before returning to school for his teacher certification. Shawn also completed his Master’s degree in Curriculum and teaching through MSU. His Montessori training includes an elementary diploma through the American Montessori Society in 2007, and an elementary diploma through Association Montessori Internationale from Montessori Institute of San Diego in 2015. Shawn has taught in a 2nd/3rd multiage classroom, a traditional first grade classroom, a 6-12 Montessori classroom and a 6-9 classroom, before finding his way to SCMS as the guide in the Cypress classroom. Having begun his college education as a music major, he continues this passion in his classroom by singing and writing songs with students to perform. Shawn takes in the beauty of the area through biking, hiking, and camping. He has three grown sons who he continues to learn from. On those rainy days you‛ll find him cooking, reading, and playing guitar.
Melissa McGuffin – Cypress Guide
Melissa was born and raised in Santa Cruz and attended Santa Cruz Montessori when she was five years old. She earned her BS in psychology at the University of California, San Diego. After graduating from college, she volunteered a year through AmeriCore, where she worked in Iowa at a camp for adults and children with disabilities. Melissa returned to SCM in 2005, where she first assisted for a year in the Willow Class. She has been an Upper Elementary Guide since 2006. She received her Association Montessori International (AMI) Elementary diploma from the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota in 2009. In 2010, she earned her MEd from Loyola University, Maryland.
Kristin Tosello – Junior Guide
Kristin was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California and attended Santa Cruz Montessori as a child. She started at Santa Cruz Montessori in primary and was in the inaugural Wavecrest class. Kristin went to University of California, Santa Cruz for her Bachelor’s degree, where she received a BA in Community Studies with Honors. After working out of the area with homeless youth, Kristin returned to Santa Cruz to raise her daughter, who has attended Santa Cruz Montessori since primary. She worked as an assistant in the upper elementary program beginning in 2010 and she received her Association Montessori Internationale Elementary diploma from Montessori Institute of San Diego in 2015. Kristin enjoys hiking in the redwood forest with her daughter and three dogs. She also enjoys doing woodworking projects in her free time.
Tom Lepoutre-Postlewaite – Wavecrest Director
Tom received his Montessori Elementary certification from the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) at Bergamo, Italy, in 1978. He earned a BA in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara (1971), and a MA in theology and education (cum laude) from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley (1975). He has been a teacher at SCM since 1980, with 13 years teaching upper elementary students. Tom founded our Wavecrest adolescent program in 1991 and has directed the program while serving as the history and English guide since that time. He has been a presenter and participant at the Montessori Adolescent Colloquium held in Ohio and has presented at the summer workshops for teachers of adolescents. He was a founding trustee of the AMI-EAA (Elementary Alumni Association) . He also has piloted a conflict resolution program in Santa Cruz and given numerous workshop presentations to educators. He has trained with the Central Coast Writing Project and enjoys writing poetry. Tom has served as a trustee on the board for AMI/USA. Both of Tom’s children attended SCM from the Young Children’s Community to the adolescent community. In his spare time, he enjoys sailing competitively and recreationally.
Catherine B. Murphy – Assistant Wavecrest Director
Catherine B. Murphy, BA, Certified Guide with AMI Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies, Assistant Director, Guide for Spanish and Micro Economy, and Coordinator of Student Exchange. Catherine was born and raised in Uruguay, South America, where she completed her primary and secondary education. In the United States, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from San Francisco State University. Later, she obtained a California Professional Clear Multiple Subject Credential, and a Bilingual Cross-Cultural Specialist Credential from a District Intern Program with San Diego City Schools. Catherine taught as an elementary bilingual education teacher and has worked in adult education for two years teaching both Spanish and English as a Second Language. Catherine is committed to high expectations for second language learners, and believes in teaching respect and appreciation for different cultures. Catherine has been teaching Spanish at Wavecrest since 1999. She completed and was certified in 2012 with the Association Montessori International Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies.
Jenny Taskey – Learning Support Program Director
Jenny Taskey has been with Santa Cruz Montessori since 2003, when her son entered the Monarch primary class, and she joined the Learning Support Program as a SEE instructor and classroom tutor for all levels. Since then, she has completed her lower elementary Montessori training with the Montessori Teacher Education Center San Francisco Bay Area in San Leandro, California. She also received training in the Lindamood-Bell programs of Visualizing and Verbalizing as well as Seeing Stars, and the Montessori Applied to Children at Risk Training at the June Shelton School in Texas. Jenny was born in Germany, where she completed high school before she started her college education in America. She received a BS in Marine Biology from UCSC and completed the undergraduate program in psychology at San Jose State University. She is currently a graduate student for the masters program in Special Education at San Jose State and has taken on the role Director of the Learning Support Program. She is passionate about learning and applying all she knows to help children reach their potential as happy human beings.
Kim Saxton, Head of School
Kim has delighted in creating a love of learning in children from a very early age. After receiving her BA in English in 1994, she fell in love with Montessori education. To complete her goal of being a Montessori Guide, she obtained her Association Montessori Internationale Elementary Certification and her M.Ed. from Loyola University of Maryland. Kim has worked in Montessori classrooms since 1994, both at the primary and elementary levels. She was pleased to join Santa Cruz Montessori in 2001, as an Elementary Guide and counts her many years in the classroom there as some of the best of her career. In 2015, Kim was selected to become the Head of School. She embraces her responsibilities with a great deal of enthusiasm and enjoys sharing her love of Montessori in many settings. Being born and raised in Santa Cruz County has given her an appreciation of the community’s unique qualities and many opportunities for outreach. Kim is married and has twins, both whom attended SCM through Wavecrest. She is incredibly thankful for the significant role Santa Cruz Montessori has played in the lives of her family and the community. Kim has developed a deep appreciation for the unparalleled foundation of lifelong learning and compassionate citizenship that a Montessori education provides to children. In her free time she enjoys her garden projects, a dedicated workout program, long walks on the beach, and cooking with an emphasis on nutrition.
Kathy Rideout – Enrollment Director
Kathy first came to SCM in 1976 as a Primary teacher. Over the years, she served as a guide in the Redwood and Adobe (Primary) classes, and helped begin the Fireside and Willow classes. Kathy received her BA in psychology (1970) from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her American Montessori Society (AMS) Primary teaching credential (1973) and MEd (1979) from the College of Notre Dame. Kathy was the Head of School for Santa Cruz Montessori from 1997 to 2016. As a Montessori parent, she originally joined the Board of Trustees and served as president in the mid 1980s and served as the Head of School for many years. Over the years, Kathy has continued her education in nonprofit management and Montessori school administration and has participated in a wide variety of workshops on child development and education. She is the mother of two former Montessori students and the grandmother of two current Montessori students.